Ghostbusters 3: Not A Sequel is a fiendishly tricky film to criticize. No matter the verdict, a minimum of one entity from the mortal realm (or otherwise) will write your review off as so-called “SJW propaganda” and sic all their Reddit confrères upon you if you liked it. And if you say you didn’t like it, as I’m about to, you may still be blacklisted, since that’s generally agreed to mean you’re opposed to the idea of producing more female-led blockbusters and promoting diversity in cinema. And also a James Rolfe apologist I bet.
Thankfully, it doesn’t mean any of that. What it does mean is that I didn’t like it, where the only thing I’m opposed to is gender being used as a gimmick under the pretext of ‘yas queen girl power’. Here is a film by Paul Feig where the main pitch is “it’s the Ghostbusters, except now they’re all girls”. You’re not wrong, Feig, but you still made a pointless semi-sequel to Ghostbusters and using the simple fact that it stars women as the latest excuse for lazy filmmaking doesn’t sound particularly progressive.
If anything, it seems like a two-for-one. Cash in on the Ghostbusters fanboys with the title and on the social justice crowd with the female cast and the claim that the real motive is feminist. And then, as the ultimate bonus, revel in the PR generated by the war you’ve instigated between the latter group and all the sexist idiots who think this film is part of a “Feminazi conspiracy” to ruin classic movies by taking the white men out. You’re a dastardly marketing genius, Feig, I’ll give you that!
The good news is, when the trailers came out, even the PC police began to realize that this impending Ghostbusters sequel wasn’t quite all there when it came to feminism and political correctness after all, just as Old Victor suspected. The assertion that putting women in the same shoes as four iconic male characters was meant to benefit equality – as opposed to ticket sales – seems far less legit once we see that one of the newcomers is a stereotyped black lady (Leslie Jones) who shouts her lines, is street smart only, and whose most famous line thus far is “Oh HELL naw!” Spoiler: the portrayal of her white co-stars is a tad more dignified. By slapstick standards.
The remainder of the main cast is filled by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon as our new Ghostbusters, naturally meaning they’re a mix between pest control and brilliant scientists. You know they’re clever since one of them wears glasses and another stands in front of a whiteboard covered in mathematic equations one time. Terrific writing. Speaking of which, Wiig and McCarthy are authors who have been met with scorn after penning a novel about how ghosts are real, which is something their critics have to eat up years later when spectres do emerge in Manhattan and proton packs must be wielded. I won’t question why nobody remembers Gozer since I’m still not sure how much of a “sequel” this was supposed to be.
Having seen the film in full, I still sense that the casting choices had little purpose other than to make this unnecessary reboot in particular more talked about in today’s society. One of the few things they did that was smart and critical/subversive of gender roles was casting a man, Chris Hemsworth, as the cartoonishly dim-witted eye candy secretary. The rest is mostly your standard remake-bullshit; concepts and scenes lifted from the original Ghostbusters minus the wit, chemistry and character arcs that made it work. Some moments will make you wonder if Paul Feig truly feels contempt for the material he’s been hired to reboot for a modern audience. With that said I take no issue with lack of Peck.
Very few of the effects and props are improved over the original film, which is unfortunate given the technical possibilities we have today, and the CGI ghosts look passable at best and like Toon Town residents at worst. I know not to expect too much VFX galore from the genre of comedy but since most of the humor in this film is generic slapstick, low hanging punchlines, vagina-fart comedy (exquisite), and characters making uninspired quips or “funny” faces, what’s gonna make up for the lackluster special effects? Maybe I should just marvel at all the ad space Sony managed to sell within 2 hours. Hey, is anyone up for some Papa John’s?
All things considered, I don’t want to be too harsh on Ghostbusters. Yes, its sternly protective fanbase is as undeserved as it is obnoxious, but it isn’t the cultural defamation its haters would like to view it as either. I did enjoy some of the actors (Kate McKinnon is beyond lovely and Charles Dance is never an unwelcome sight), certain ghost designs kicked multiple rears, the cameos from the old film’s cast were cute, and some of the newer gadgets were inventive. We’ll see if I buy a toy or two for my goddaughter.
But when the first preview hit the web in March, my only comment on it was a very straightforward inquiry: “Is putting women in unwanted sequels meant to help diversity, or is it just meant to help unwanted sequels?”
It’s not intended as snide either; I legitimately want to know what the thought process is. If we want the conditions for women in Hollywood to improve, why can’t we make awesome NEW movies with all-female casts rather than having all-female casts be the new excuse for half-arsed remakes and follow-ups that no-one asked for? Do we seriously believe it’s more empowering to be a version of something rather than something unique? Don’t we think that sounds more earnest and progressive than using “but now they’re WOMEN” as a tagline, which was the case for the Ghostbusters movie even before someone thought to write the script? Reboot films, by nature, are notoriously frowned upon, and trying to save them with a gimmick like gender-bending veers dangerously close to exploitation. It is wonderful that young girls are more encouraged than ever to cosplay Ghostbusters (whether or not this was an intended effect on Sony’s part), but do our actresses not deserve better?
Possibly not, because judging from the fact that most nay-sayers to this film are assumed to be among the testy man-children who think their favorite cult classic has been tarnished from having girls in it, I guess it must be the holy grail of progress. And of course it doesn’t matter if people who disliked this movie loved The Force Awakens (an objectively superior film, I’d argue); their only reasoning for hating it is that one of the big geek-franchises from their childhoods is suddenly female-led. Again, Feig, you’re a genius for all the most diabolical reasons. You made this film at just the right time, allowing it to become invincible to critics – unless more people catch on that it’s actually kinda racist sometimes.
But sure, many haters of this film are indeed whiny and (obliviously) misogynistic, as they primarily make the case that movies like this – and The Force Awakens, mind – are spreading “Feminazi propaganda” and “ruining” all the cinematic classics by being anti white men. Such dudebros [sic] wouldn’t have been on-board even if the trailers evoked more Ghostbusters and less Disney’s Haunted Mansion mixed with Ninja Turtles, but all their whining is still publicity, and I’m fairly positive Feig knew exactly what would happen if he damaged one of the dudebros’ favorite sausage fests. The detractors will see it to have something to shit on; the PC squad will see it to spite its detractors by girl powering all over their neckbearded faces. Everybody loses except Feig.
As a person who technically thinks both these groups got their heads up their slimers, the side I’m taking is with those who support the idea of female-led remakes. At least their hearts are in the right place.